Does author credibility matter? Does your answer change depending upon whether we talk about nonfiction or fiction?
Or how about this question. Does it really matter what the author was trying to do when they wrote the book if all we want is the information within or the entertainment of the book?
What do you think?
Author Credibility in Nonfiction and Fiction
Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility. ~Pope Francis
Perhaps this is more clear in the nonfiction world. Many understand that an author’s worldview, even if it’s not clearly defined within and to himself, colors his writing. His bias may or may not be one you want to buy into, but it can have value whether you want to read more from someone who agrees with you, disagrees with you, or falls somewhere in between.
Regardless, critical thinking is important. Asking questions to engage with the thoughts presented guard you from falling into fallacies and science fiction. Let’s start with an unimportant but accepted ‘fact’ and ask some questions: Every snowflake is different.
- How do we know that every snowflake is different?
- Does this mean every snowflake this particular snowfall? This particular winter season? Or every snowflake ever in the history of snowflakes?
- Was a verifiable, repeatable process followed? Or did the scientist glean from other authoritative sources who followed the scientific method?
- Were these sources quoted well or taken out of context?
- Does the scientist’s experience give him credibility? Or do past experiences or present emotions cloud his judgment to the point that his conclusions are suspect?
Don’t neglect fiction authors
Some might disregard the fiction world entirely, thinking an author’s credibility is only important if they want to persuade readers one way or another. I disagree. Fiction is perhaps more powerful because it relates through emotions. We are therefore more prone to turn our critical thinking skills off and accept whatever is before our eyes.
Some key questions could be:
- Beyond entertainment, what is the author trying to convey through the story?
- Does it grow your faith or send you into the BIble for answers to issues the characters wrestle with?
- Does the story open your eyes to an aspect of God you hadn’t considered before?
- Is that aspect truly part of the God of the Bible?
Determining Author Credibility
While you may never be absolutely certain, you can check into an author’s credibility and worldview in several ways.
Check the Foreword and endorsements.
And keep the natural limitations in mind. It’s standard practice for the author to offer sample endorsements to those who agree to add their name to the publicity for the book. And sometimes, endorsers will only skim parts of the book rather than take hours out of their schedule to read the full manuscript. Still, many have enough integrity that if they are uncertain about the overall message, they won’t attach their name to it.
Learn more through the listed biography, website, and social media accounts.
The biography and credentials on the back cover will be edited to include only what is most helpful to a particular book. But many authors include an About Me section on their website that is more complete and often gives insight into their personality. However, keep in mind that some authors hire publicists and marketing experts to help create a positive image and to relieve themselves of some of the immense responsibility of selling books. What you see on Facebook may be a hired hand rather than the author.
Don’t forget Google (or other search engines).
Do a quick search to see what else the author has written or commented on, or who else is talking to him or about him. If you input my name into the Google search bar, you’ll find listings for my website and my books on Amazon. But you’ll also see articles where I’ve guest posted on other blogs, as well as what other authors and readers have written about me and my books.
Relationships feed on credibility, honesty, and consistency. ~Scott Borchetta, American record executive
Author credibility is important. It hints at their integrity and trustworthiness, which indicates how freely you should allow their words into your mind. This doesn’t mean you should never read an author who has personal integrity issues, but you may want to be more particular about which of their opinions (books) you consider (read).